If you haven’t seen PINS live, you may very well not understand the hype. It seems like music journalists have been hammering on about them for eons but their releases – starting with 2012’s LUVU4LYF EP, leading up to their recent Bad Thing EP – feel a little derivative, with comparisons to Crystal Stilts or Vivian Girls sliding off the tongue a touch too easily. However, live performances seem to be a particular strength for the band, an opportunity to showcase their tight-knit group dynamic and natural charisma.
And Edinburgh’s Sneaky Pete’s is a fitting venue to let the band shine. The intimacy afforded by the venue’s size, as well as its pared-back interior, showcases the band member's abilities to best effect. Throughout the performance Faith Holgate is exuberant and effervescent but, far from fading behind her, each band member has a palpable presence on stage, contributing something different to the dynamic. For example, while the eye is naturally drawn to guitarist Lois McDonald’s unbridled energy, she’s offset by keyboardist Kyoko Swan’s understated cool.
Nevertheless, the five-piece has a bit of an uphill battle with a crowd who, despite clearly enjoying themselves, are painfully quiet throughout. Holgate (and quite possibly the rousing drums supplied by Sophie Galpin) eventually manages to build them up, but there are few takers when women from the crowd are offered the chance to go on-stage. Indeed, when directly asked halfway through about the sound levels, the crowd is too bashful to suggest that Holgate’s mic be turned up.
While older tracks are played for more long-standing fans, the focus is naturally on the material from March-released Bad Thing – with mixed results. Unfortunately, when bassist Anna Donigan valiantly steps in to cover Iggy Pop’s spoken-word on Aggrophobe, her soft, expressive voice is scarcely audible over the music. However, the gig's highlights also come from Bad Thing tracks; namely, the strength of the members singing together on All Hail and the spirited cover of Joy Division’s Dead Souls. PINS take this classic, then amp it up and re-deliver it with their unique touch, in a process which is emblematic for their overall sound.
They certainly have an ability to take familiar ground and throw it ever-so-slightly off kilter, adding unexpected textures and touches. However, it is their fierce and unapologetic dynamism, so evident in this live show, which has won them loyal fans and which will carry them to new heights.